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Beating Depression With Natural Methods

Many folks treat their depression with psychotherapy or prescription antidepressant drugs. And though many experts think a combination of these two are effective, no scientific evidence supports this supposition. In reality, simple, natural measures like more sleep, exercise and efforts at sustaining a positive attitude work better to combat depression than medication.

Widespread Effects

Depression affects more than 20 million Americans and represents a serious mental health problem. It is believed to involve a genetic predisposition and the chemical composition of the brain, where symptoms like loss of energy, fatigue, prolonged feelings of deep sadness, loss of interest in things, and even thoughts of suicide stay front and center for an extended period of time.

According to the insights of Joseph Mercola, M.D., “The fact is, psychiatry still doesn’t understand what causes psychological distress, and the primary theory proposed; the idea that unwanted behavior and depression are due to an imbalance of serotonin and dopamine in your brain has never been proven.

“On the contrary, research has proven the theory is wrong, yet this evidence has been swept under the proverbial rug.

Despite what the slick advertisements say, psychotropic drugs have no measurable biological imbalances to correct — unlike other drugs that can measurably alter levels of blood sugar, cholesterol and so on.”

Factual Disturbance

This is a disturbing fact to swallow. But the implications of this situation are worrisome. Several scientific, peer-reviewed studies have shown that anti-psychotic drugs increase your risk of cardiac disease at low doses and anti-depressants show the same risk at higher doses. Research in The New England Journal of Medicine, for example, found that “antipsychotic drugs doubled the risk of sudden cardiac death.” (Mercola’s full article and a disturbing video on the subject are here.

I’ve read several studies and even more books by experts claiming that low levels of serotonin, a monoamine neurotransmitter in the brain, leads to depression. This theory holds that due to lack of sleep and poor diet one’s serotonin level drops, and does not increase, thus leaving one with symptoms of depression, body ache and even migraine headaches. Pain symptoms aside, a report by the National Institute of Mental Health found the serotonin theory to be false after testing the serotonin levels in depressed patients. These researchers conclude:

“There is no evidence that there is anything wrong in the serotonergic system of depressed patients.”

Even though that report came out way back in 1983, hundreds of chemical and natural anti-depressant meds and supplements have hit the market since then. What a shame. While we yet may not be able to pinpoint the root cause of depression, there are promising natural and cost-free solutions for symptomatic relief. 


A paper co-written by Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at University of California, Riverside, points to a “positive activity intervention” as an effective means to dealing with depression. “Depressed individuals need to increase positive emotions in their life, even a minute here and there,” she said. Her findings demonstrate proof that carrying out “random acts of kindness” is indeed a strong therapy against depression.

Lyubomirsky and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis on the therapeutic benefits of positive emotion on those who suffer from depression. They found clear scientific evidence that helping others or finding positive things in your own life decreases depression symptoms while increasing good feelings about yourself.

This research identifies four “positive activity interventions” that help reduce and prevent episodes of depressions: 1) being kind to others, 2) expressing gratitude, 3) thinking optimistically and 4) meditating on the good things in life. In other words, being and thinking like a “good person” keeps one from falling into a depressive mode, and helps one out of them as well.

“The most significant feature of depression,” says Lyubomirsky, “is the absence of positive emotion — just a feeling of nothing, of emptiness.” This is interesting to me, because it hints that as we move away from our inherent positive human nature (being kind and happy), we move in the direction of depression (which is less like life and more like death).

It seems this study confirms the concept of the so-called Law of Attraction, “That which is like unto itself is attracted,” or “like attracts like.” As Lyubomirsky notes, “Not only can being positive improve your mood, it can develop into a self-sustaining upward spiral.” One positive event, action or thought attracts another and then another, until the person who was depressed has raised his energy levels to resonate in positivity and happiness. There is no depression in such a state.


Years ago Wayne Dyer, Ph.D., wrote a book called The Power of Intention. In the book he discusses studies on how merely observing a good or kind action raises the mood of onlookers. Dyer connects these mood-raising episodes to an increase in serotonin. While we know that serotonin is probably not responsible for these mood improvements, still, mood changes occur because of positive events.

Mood News

The best news is that you don’t need a doctor or a prescription to lift depression. You can do positive things, focus on those things and people for which you are most grateful, find things you love to do and share your good experiences with others.

Exercising can help with this; it boosts the feel-good chemicals in the body and gets the blood moving to help the body feel better. Eating well nourishes body and brain, too. Meditating or engaging in yoga or tai chi can also help reduce stress and relax body and mind.

When you can move the body, eat well, reduce stress and get adequate deep sleep, it is easier to feel good in your body. Feeling good in the body is a fundamental part of feeling good about life and your place in the world. From that vantage point you can think better thoughts, express gratitude and seek to carry out random acts of kindness. A more self-directed, healthy and proven remedy for the symptoms of depression has not been found. Yes, sometimes the simplest solutions are the strongest solutions. Have fun!

Filed Under: Alternative MedicineBrain HealthEasy Health Digest™Exercise and FitnessMemory and Brain HealthMental and Cognitive HealthSleep

About the Author: Dr. Mark Wiley is an internationally renowned mind-body health practitioner, author, motivational speaker and teacher. He holds doctorates in both Oriental and alternative medicine, has done research in eight countries and has developed a model of health and wellness grounded in a self-directed, self-cure approach. The Wiley Method provides a revolutionary way of providing recovery and prevention of chronic pain, illness and disease. Grab your FREE COPY of Dr. Mark Wiley's "The 3 Secrets to Optimal Health" HERE.

Facebook Conversations

  • Izak Burger

    Thank you for your article re Beating Depression With Natural Methods.
    I am no expert, but found that eating bran to keep my colon clean helps my liver cope, and with less toxins in my system I feel MUCH better. I can then start with exercising, and only then my sleeping pattern becomes better. Lastly, in stead of meditating, I started praying, as we have forgotten how to pray & replaced it with yoga etc.
    Kind regards, Izak

    • Dr. Mark Wiley

      Izak, this is terrific news. Yes, clearing the body of toxins faster helps the lover and body chemistry overall. Thank you for sharing this!

  • Joumana

    When I was dealing with depression 3 years ago, the only thing I knew was that I didn’t want to go the traditional route of doctors and medications because I had seen the effect they had on my mother and I didn’t want that for myself. So I started researching (as much as a depressed person can research!)and by trial and error I discovered many ways to actually HEAL depression (not just treat it) that are natural and more often than not, free or low cost. Also on my journey, I discovered my life purpose. And for that I am forever grateful!

    • Dr. Mark Wiley

      Joumana, it sounds like your journey for depression relief brought you so much more than you expected. Finding one’s life purpose and gratitude is significant. Good for you!

  • Ron

    Could you kindly discuss what you have found or direct me to a website that has the info you speak of? I could really use some help.

    • Omar | DepressionHero

      Some great suggestions have been made below regarding fish oil, B vitamins and folate and Magnesium to help with the body chemistry. When I was depressed, I got therapy because anti depressants are just too dangerous, risky with so many documented problems – I didn’t want to be a statistic! Therapy was amazing because I found an A+ therapist ratehr than a C- therapist that helped me realize that depression is not just in the mind but in the emotions and in the body – I did this therapy clled Bioenergetics and I highly recommend it.

  • Ellen

    I suddenly had depression several years ago for no apparent reason. There was nothing in my life that was sad or stressful. I opted to reject an antidepressant and started reading about depression. I accidentally discovered I had a B12 deficieny. After starting a B12 supplement, my problem went away. Our bodies need B12, B6 and folate to turn tryptophan (from food) into serotonin. If you are low on any of those, your serotonin is off balance. Serotonin turns into melatonin, so that becomes off balance, too. That leaves you sleep deprived, which causes more problems. There is a link between low serotonin and fibromyalgia, which is why you see all the commercials for antidepressants to treat it. If you simply take 5-HTP, you will stop the fibromyalgia. 5-HTP can also be used as an antidepressant, but it needs B12/B6/folate to work, as it is a part of the tryptophan metabolic cycle. This cycle should be the first thing looked at by doctors, yet they never look at it. This explains why 80% of people who take an antidepressant have no improvement.

  • Vicki

    How does this apply to new mothers with severe post-partum depression? I have had several friends in this category. If they had not taken an anti-depressant, they might have killed themselves or harmed their babies. And I know they were trying to do positive things and say positive things and be positive.

    • Adriane

      During pregnancy the developing baby (especially the brain) uses the mother’s omega 3 stores. This can lead to a deficiency state for the mother and contribute to post-partum depression. Most people are deficient in DHA & EPA (omega 3 fatty acids) already and pregnancy can exacerbate this. Breastfeeding mothers continue to give their omega 3′s to their infants as it’s needed for continuing brain growth/development. Pregnant and nursing moms should take at least mercury free fish oil supplements providing at least 600 mg of combined DHA/EPA per day. Note: most fish oil capsules are 1,000 mg of fish oil, but you have to look on the label and see how many mg of DHA/EPA it provides to make sure you’re getting the effective dose. Carlson’s brand and Costco are both tested for contaminants. Also, pregnancy depletes a woman iodine for the baby’s brain as well and that can lead to thyroid problems which can be involved in depression. If you take supplemental iodine, you must also take selenium to prevent oxidative stress in the thyroid.

  • Robin

    As a Health Practitioner I have seen many clients suffering from depression who have been on psychotic drugs but still not well. As a Homotoxicologist I can administer B12 and B6. and Magnesium. These 3 natural nutrients can change depression for many people. Using Kinesiology muscle testing I am able to identify the priority emotion from an emotional dictionary and but clear this emotion using Aquarian Energy Healing amazing changes happen for clients. It is also imoortant to check that all meridians are working in the clients and then adjusting these. I have proved this many times.

  • John

    This brief article got me thinking about the medications and therapy I am using to combat depression. I am tempted to try a different course now. My Psychiatrist has prescribed other drugs for other problems I express. I will talk this over with her.

  • Paula

    I’m sorry, but I have been on a low dose of Paxil (20 mgs. per day) for the past 9 years, and it has helped me tremendously. While natural remedies may help some people, the realization is that it does not work for everyone. Everyone’s bodies are different. I know several people who are clinically depressed and have tried alternative treatments which didn’t work, only to go back to prescription drugs which do help them.

  • Aranka Kocsis

    I do take antidepressants and I think that those people who tell that depression can be treated with food and natural remedies and so on…have no idea about depression!!! It is easy giving advises without ever never experiencing it.

  • Sophia

    I am in severe state of depression.I lost everything even family support is gone. I live alone. No job. Best friend is far from me. I don’t know what to do. I’ve been to psychiatrist and was given anti depressant but my readingsabout these drug increases cardiac health that I fear. I totally cannot sleep. Do you have support on line for free? Thank you so

  • Gareld

    I was hospitalized in November for suicidal idealization. The Psychiatrists put me on 10mg of Olanzapine and 100mg of Sertraline (Zoloft). I had unbearable ruminating thoughts. When I started taking the medication I still had the ruminating thoughts but they were cut by more than half I even noticed a difference the very next day after taking the Sertraline which is what I was started off on. As the months went by I noticed improvements. I had alot of bottled up emotions towards my parents that were causing bouts of crying. I finally phoned my parents to get it off my chest with them but was only able to talk to my mom a little under two weeks ago and now my head is almost totally clear. I still have anger towards them I think because I was not able to talk with my father. My question is I think my problem was simply bottled up emotions because I have done a complete 180. The Psychiatrist said I could start coming off the Olanzapine in 6 months (as more of a average but necessarily in my specific case) but I am concerned I might not be able to come off them at all since my mental illness goes back over a decade. I am concerned that maybe my wires have been crossed for too long and I have heard negative information about psychiatric medication. Is it possible to be taking off the medication under the supervision of a doctor. And if need be use a natural remedy?